Teen accused of killing dancer at gas station pleads not guilty to murder as hate crime

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Friday, August 11, 2023
Teen accused of killing dancer at gas station ID'd after arraignment
Dmitriy Popov, the 17-year-old charged with stabbing and killing O'Shae Sibley at a gas station in Brooklyn, pleaded not guilty on Friday morning. Morgan Norwood has the details.

BROOKLYN, New York (WABC) -- The 17-year-old charged with stabbing and killing O'Shae Sibley at a gas station in Brooklyn pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on Friday morning.

The teenager, Dmitriy Popov, was indicted by a grand jury on murder in the second degree as a hate crime, among other charges, on Thursday afternoon.

His attorney said the case is not about hate and his client didn't hurl any hate speech during the July confrontation.

His next court date is set for October and the judge told him to stay out of trouble while in custody. He faces a minimum of 20 years in jail, and a maximum of 25 years to life.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez stressed the importance of prosecuting the case as a hate crime.

"I think the evidence will show that this was a bias crime, a hate crime," Gonzalez said. "And it's a very rare occasion in this city that we have to charge a 17-year-old as an adult, and charged with murder the second degree as a hate crime, but the facts in this case warrant that those charges."

Sibley was killed on July 29 at a gas station in Midwood after the gay professional dancer intervened between a group yelling homophobic and anti-Black slurs at another group.

After initially de-escalating the situation, words were exchanged once again and that's when investigators say the teen pulled a knife and stabbed Sibley. Sibley died "of a stab wound of the chest with injury to the heart."

After a week of attempting to bring him in, the teen turned himself in through an arrangement with his lawyer.

The case sparked nationwide outcry and in New York City, demonstrators danced and Vogued as a sign of resistance to hate.

The Brooklyn district attorney said there is no room for hate in Brooklyn.

"O'Shae came to New York to follow his dream and brightened our city with his light. We honor his life, celebrate his courage, and commit to hold accountable the individual allegedly responsible for this horrific murder. O'Shae and his friends were targeted for being themselves, dancing joyfully and harming no one. There is no tolerance for hate in Brooklyn, where we value our diversity, inclusion and the freedom to be who we are."

Gonzalez also weighed in for the first time on surveillance video that captured the confrontation.

Witnesses tell investigators the suspect claimed he is Muslim and was offended by the way the group was dancing as he hurled anti-gay slurs.

"What the video shows is that Mr. Sibley was rightfully in a position to speak out and protect himself and his friends from anti-gay and anti-Black slurs," he said. "And that what transcended after that was a crime. And we allege, as you can see, in the video, Mr. Sibley and his friends weren't armed. We know there's no question that they weren't, they have no shirt on. And so we know that defending yourself from being an anti-gay or anti-Black comment. And arguing back is not a cause for someone to take a weapon and do what was done in this case."

Popov's lawyer, Mark Pollard, has denied that his client used any anti-gay or anti-Black speech. He also said the teen, son of Russian immigrants, is Christian and not Muslim.

"Once I get all the evidence I strongly suspect we will be going self defense, that he had reasonable grounds, that he had to defend himself in this situation," Pollard said.

He said Popov is a rising senior at The Professional Pathways Sheepshead High School and he has no prior interaction with police.

"He's obviously he's sorrowful, he said he's afraid as he should be at 17 years old, but he has faith and he prays and he has great family support and he's hanging in there," Pollard said.

ALSO READ | Vigil turns into solidarity march for dancer O'Shae Sibley

O'Shae Sibley's name rang out during a march from the LGBT Community Center - overflowing with pain - to Pier 46, where people danced to numb their pain. Anthony Carlo has more.


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